In Perfect Harmony: Part Two
The whole room was silent, waiting for Ali to begin.
“Um.” Ali’s voice cracked as she began to address the Lea’s party guests. “Hi, I’m Ali. This song is dedicated to Lea. Happy birthday.” The Starry Yurble briefly stepped off the stage to murmur something to a nearby Krawk, who was managing the singing competition music. “This song is called The Dream Breaker,” Ali announced.
The Krawk started the accompaniment and Ali cleared her throat. The thought of all those young Neopets and Lea watching her...
“You can do this, Ali,” she whispered to herself. “You love this song.”
A chord played and Ali closed her eyes. This was her cue to begin. She opened her mouth and the lyrics danced out on to the platform. She didn’t even have to think twice; Ali knew this song inside and out. And when she finally opened her eyes, she saw that her audience was captivated.
“Go Ali!” a voice shouted from somewhere in the center of the room.
The Yurble smiled and her song grew stronger. The melody and the lyrics wove together and lifted her up. Oh, how Ali loved to sing! She stood up on the platform at Lea’s party, growing more confident by the second, telling the story of a young Xweetok trying to overcome obstacles to follow her dreams, only to be unsuccessful, until at the end of the song she realized that she must never give up.
The Dream Breaker ended with a barely audible chord and Ali clasped her hands together, hoping that her mistakes were not clear. At first there was silence in the room, but soon the Neopets broke out into applause and shouts of approval.
“Thank you,” Ali murmured to the crowd and briskly walked off the platform after bowing twice.
Ali navigated through Lea’s house and found her way into a bathroom. After making sure that door was locked, she stood in front of the sink, gazing at her reflection into the mirror. It was true that she was proud of her good performance, especially in front of all those Neopets, but in a way something was wrong.
“I love to sing,” she whispered to herself. “This is who I am.”
And just like that, the world was clear to her. What had she meant when she had told Rose that she did not want to be a singer when she grew up? Had she tried to imply that she would prefer to take a job that would be more respected in an intellectual Neopian community rather than do something she truly loved to do?
“I must have been out of mind,” Ali laughed to herself.
Dancing around the bathroom, the Yurble began to sing, making up a tune to herself while she went along: “I’m out of mind; I’m out of my mind!” Ali felt free and exhilarated.
A knock on the door made her realize that she was still in Lea’s bathroom. Suddenly embarrassed, Ali flushed the toilet to make the Neopet outside think that she had actually had a purpose inside there. She unlocked the door and rushed out of the room, anxiously apologizing to a confused-looking Chia outside in the hallway.
“Oh,” the Chocolate Chia exclaimed. “Aren’t you the girl who just performed?”
“Yeah, that was me,” Ali replied, blushing.
“You were so amazing! You have a really pretty voice and I really enjoyed listening to you. The Dream Breaker is one of my favorite songs.” The Chia paused for a breath of air. “What is your name again?”
“Ali.” The Yurble realized that the excited Chia wasn’t planning to enter the bathroom until the conversation was over. And she didn’t think that the conversation would be over for quite a while.
“I remember now! Ali’s a pretty name. My name is Jenny, but no one ever says that my name is pretty. I love your name so much more than mine!”
“Uh, nice to meet you, Jenny.” Ali glanced away from Jenny’s stare. “I’m surprised; Jenny is a really pretty name. At least, I think so.”
“Do you really? That means so much to me!” Jenny responded, filled with joy.
At that moment, a Lupe interrupted the conversation. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but is one of you going to go in?” He pointed at the open bathroom door. “If not, I’m going to go.”
“No, no, you can go!” Jenny responded, obviously eager to continue talking to Ali. “That’s fine.”
“Alright, thanks.” The Lupe walked into the bathroom. “Nice job singing, by the way,” he added, noticing Ali. The door closed.
“Anyways, I really hope you become a singer when you grow up! I think you would do a fantastic job! I would go to all of your concerts, and I know a lot of my friends would probably go too!” Jenny continued.
“That’s very nice of you, but...” Ali nervously looked away, trying to think of an excuse to end the conversation. “I don’t know. Well, it was nice talking to you, but Lea asked me to talk to her after I performed, so... see you around!” Ali started to walk away. “And thank you for all your compliments; I really appreciated them!” she added hastily, seeing the Chia’s disappointed face.
Pleased that she escaped the monotonous conversation, Ali rushed into the main room where all the guests were enjoying the rest of the contest. Before she had time to look up and see who was singing now, Lea rushed towards the Yurble, catching her by surprise.
“You were awesome!” the Gnorbu squealed in her girly, high-pitched voice, “I’m so glad you sang after all; everyone loved it!”
“Thanks, Lea.” Ali grinned. “But you know I only sang because you wanted me to. And it’s your birthday, after all, so I really didn’t have a choice.”
“That’s only true because you’re a good friend,” Lea pointed out. “If you weren’t such a good friend, you wouldn’t have cared about me, you just would have done what you wanted to do: nothing more, nothing less.”
“Well, you know how much you mean to me!”
“You’re so sweet, Ali! Anyways, I have other guests to talk to, and I want to hear the rest of the contest. Good luck!” Lea walked off towards a group of Lutaris, who obviously wanted to talk to the birthday girl.
Ali walked towards the back of room, not wanting to socialize. She didn’t want more Neopets complimenting her or wishing her luck. She wanted her mind to float off into a peaceful place, a place where there was no noise and everything was fine. The Yurble got caught up in her dream land, her eyes closed calmly and her heart beating at the pace of the footsteps of someone promenading through a garden.
“First of all, let’s have a round of applause for all our contestants!” Ali’s eyes shot open to see Lea standing on the platform at the front of the room. The guests clapped wildly, some shouting names or hollering approval.
The Yurble groaned; the winner of the contest was being announced. She begged not to be called up to the stage and have to endure the eyes of curious party guests once again, Lea’s gleaming smile of happiness for her friend. But oddly, at the same time, a part of her pleaded to be the winner. Ali found a chair to sit in and hugged herself, torn between desiring the attention and wanting to be left alone.
Caught up in her own thoughts, Ali missed Lea’s speech entirely. She decided it was best to shut things out for the time being. Maybe if she was chosen people would think she wasn’t in the room and she wouldn’t have to go up on stage again...
“Ali?” The Yurble closed her eyes tightly as she heard a booming voice call her name. Surrounding guests scanned the room. “Ali, are you here?” the voice called again.
“Of course,” Ali muttered to herself, “Why did I give in to Lea?” she mourned.
“Silly me, there you are!” Lea called from the platform. “Why didn’t you come up the first time I called your name?” The Gnorbu stepped off the platform and ran towards Ali at the back of the room, the crowd parting to let her pass.
As Lea reached her, Ali mumbled something in response to her question.
“What did you say?” Lea asked loudly, pushing the Yurble towards the platform. “Gosh, Ali; if you’re going to speak, make it so people can understand what you’re saying!”
“I didn’t want to come up,” Ali sighed, whispering quietly so only the Gnorbu could hear. “I don’t like all of the attention singing brings me; it gets annoying.”
“Why?” Lea was clearly surprised, as she stopped walking.
Ali started to respond, but then looked around only to discover that the whole room was watching them intently.
“Can you excuse us for a moment?” Lea said, grimacing, addressing her guests. “In the meantime, Sarah will perform an encore piece!” Sarah, a Pteri who had been another of the contest’s participants, ran up to the platform.
Lea walked Ali into her bedroom. As she shut the door for privacy, Ali said: “Nice save there, Lea.”
The Gnorbu shrugged off the comment. “Why, Ali? If you didn’t want to participate in the contest, then you didn’t have to.”
“You said you really wanted me to, though! I did it for you, Lea. You’re one of my best friends and it’s your birthday, after all.”
“Still, you could have declined. I mean, I would have understood that. I appreciate you singing for me—it was beautiful, by the way—but I didn’t know you had this type of attitude about singing.”
Ali buried her head in her hands. “I’m just so confused, Lea,” she responded in a muffled voice. “I love singing, I really do! But it seems nowadays all people can talk about involving me is my singing, my voice, a concert I was in... It gets so annoying; I feel so pressured, you know?”
“I guess I can understand that.”
“Sometimes I don’t want to be associated with singing. It’s taking over my life; I feel like people don’t see me as a person anymore, just as a good singer. I don’t want to have to take on that title. I want to be Ali. I don’t know who I am yet, and it’s so hard to figure out my identity with all of this glaring me in the eye.”
Lea gazed at her friend and watched as a teardrop flowed down from Ali’s bright blue eye. She hugged her friend to comfort her and felt Ali relax slightly within her arms.
“Are you going to be alright?” she asked gently.
Ali nodded. “I guess I really needed to talk to someone more than anything.”
“Okay, well we’re going to go back out there. I have to present you with a prize, but it will be fine. You should be recognized for your great performance, after all.”
The friends walked into the main room just as Sarah was finishing her song. The guests clapped halfheartedly as the Pteri rushed off the platform to allow Lea and Ali to walk up.
“I’m very sorry for the interruption, but I hope you enjoyed Sarah’s wonderful voice in the meantime!” Lea announced, glancing quickly at Ali, who was standing with her arms crossed lightly near the back wall on the platform. “But now I am pleased to present the winner of our contest: Ali!”
The partygoers applauded loudly and Ali walked up next to Lea. “Thank you,” she said to the crowd, as Lea handed her a small ribbon.
“Congratulations, Ali.” The two Neopets smiled together and embraced.
To be continued...